John C. Longton III
Sophomore football player Justin Richards, a local native from Schenectady, just signed a letter of intent and received a full scholarship to Florida A&M. He is the starting right tackle on the football team and has come a long way.
Richards was a dominant force in high school and received a lot of recognition for his achievements on the field. He started playing football in eighth grade and made the varsity team a year after. His progressions were a lot quicker than anyone could have imagined which led to him getting looked at by division I programs in high school, but he did not receive any scholarships due to his grades.
“I got 12 letters from different schools, but they were based off how athletic I was and not my grades,” said Richards. He even got a look from Syracuse, “Syracuse was the biggest one. They even sent me tickets to come out to a game.”
Richards had to go to a junior college to pick up his grades. He chose Hudson Valley to continue to play football and work on his academics at the same time. He is currently enrolled in individual studies and plans to major in Psychology at Florida A&M. While here he’s worked on his game and his grades and has made strides in both.
“I think he’s improved quite a bit both physically and mentally,” said head coach Mike Muehling. He added, “He was a good player when he got here and I think he’s a better player leaving here.”
A year before Richards’s arrival the football team finished the season with an abysmal 2-7 record. Since adding Richards to the roster the team’s offense has found success going 13-3 with a national bowl appearance. He’s been an anchor on the offensive line and his teammates give him credit when it’s due.
“It had a big impact on my play,” said first year player Jaylen McIntyre, a CBA graduate. While running behind Richards McIntyre average 112 yards per game, which was fourth in the nation. In terms of how he thinks Richards will translate to Florida A&M McIntyre went on to say, “He’s a quick learner and adjusts pretty well. I think he’ll an exceptional player there.”
“Anytime you have a kid like [Richards] that you want to run behind him for as much as possible. That’s what we’ve done for the past two years,” said Muehling. He also thinks that Richards will have an impact for Florida A&M, “I think he’s going to do well for them. I know that they expect him to come in and compete for a spot right away and I think he can.” Muehling went on to say, “I think he’s smart enough to pick everything up. I think he’s a solid football player and he’s going to excel when he gets down there.”
Richards knows that he took a longer path to a division I program than he had to. If he could do it again he would have focused more in the classroom. When asked if he had any advice for players in high school that have the talent to play, but not the grades he said, “People need to know not to take it easy.” He followed up by saying, “It’s not too late. You can find a place like Hudson Valley to be a stepping stone.”
Traditionally junior colleges such as Hudson Valley have been used in that sense. They come for two years and learn how to balance athletics with academics. That is exactly what Justin Richards has done. He is one of the players that used this institution in the way that most should model their junior college careers. He reports down to Florida A&M this summer where he will begin a new journey and a new chapter in his life.